Medford's unique TV market reaches a critical crossroad

| Print |  Email
Articles - August 2011
Wednesday, July 20, 2011

 

0811_MedfordTV_02
Above: Although she once vowed that she would never follow her father into broadcasting, Patsy Smullin eventually became her father’s successor as owner-operator of KOBI. To this day she takes phone calls at home from viewers.
Below: Technology is key in staying ahead for KOBI, the flagship station of the sprawling and diversified California Oregon Broadcasting Inc. 
// Photos by Jamie Lusch
0811_MedfordTV_03

By Dan Cook

Patsy Smullin, the owner of Medford-based California Oregon Broadcasting Inc. (COBI), was awakened from slumber by the jangling of her home phone one night in April. Groggily reaching for the offending device, she noticed it was 4 a.m. Still, she answered.

“There’s a fellow on the line who wants to know what the laws are for burning wood,” she recalled. “I said, ‘Do you know what time it is?’ He said, ‘Yes, I just got off work. And your station [KOBI] says we can call any time with a question.’ He had me there. I told him I’d look up the answer and get back to him when I got to the station.”

Smullin’s customer service commitment is somewhat extreme; she has after-hours calls forwarded to her home phone. But it is nonetheless emblematic of the close connections that exist between Medford’s three main network affiliates and the viewers they serve.

Medford is an unlikely hub of broadcast activity. Isolated among mountains just north of the California border, it is far from any of the markets normally associated with media activity. Its rich broadcast history is essentially the product of William Smullin’s restless need to push the broadcast envelope in the earliest days of television. Smullin, Patsy’s father, actually launched his media empire in Eureka, Calif., with a radio station. When he expanded into VHF television broadcasting in 1953, it presaged the move of the base of his operations to Medford.

Today, the dynamic little media market that Smullin jump-started more than 50 years ago finds itself at a critical crossroads. Battered by the recession, the local television stations have been forced to reduce staff and make other concessions to remain viable. One major station — CBS affiliate KTVL — may be up for sale soon. Its Orange County, Calif.-based owner, Freedom Communications, recently emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization and is accepting bids for all of its properties.

The word “consolidation” is on the lips of many who follow the market. Were that to happen in any substantive way, a very special small American television market could be irreparably changed.

 



 

Comments   

 
Mike Gantenbein
-1 #1 Crossroads?Mike Gantenbein 2011-07-27 13:50:21
Great overview of the TV market in Medford - but I'm not sure that the market has arrived at some sort of "crossroads". It is in flux and will continue to be as the internet continues to offer new avenues for content developers (e.g. networks) to distribute their products. However, flux is normal in this market - there were only two TV stations in the market when I first moved here.
Quote | Report to administrator
 
 
Guest
0 #2 adminGuest 2013-03-20 03:06:37
This is the direction of Television now..
Quote | Report to administrator
 

More Articles

LEED for weed

Linda Baker
Wednesday, January 28, 2015
012815-potcarbon-thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

What is the impact of the legal pot industry on carbon emissions?


Read more...

Game On

March 2015
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

The big news at Oregon Business is we’re getting a ping pong table. After reading the descriptions of the 2015 100 Best Companies to Work For in Oregon, a disproportionate number of which feature table tennis in the office, I decided it was time to bring our own workplace into the 21st century. It was a tough call, but it’s lonely at the top, and someone has to make the hard decisions.


Read more...

Carbon Power

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER

Researchers in a multitude of disciplines are searching for ways to soak up excess carbon dioxide, the compound that contributes to global warming.


Read more...

That's Not a Watch (This Is a Watch)

February 2015
Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Smartwatches are all the rage. But old-fashioned timepieces keep on ticking.


Read more...

Editor's Letter: Tortoise and the Hare

February 2015
Monday, January 26, 2015

The day after this issue goes to press, the city of Medford will host its annual business conference. The event features Minoli Ratnatunga, co-author of the Milken Institute’s annual “Best-Performing Cities” report. Preliminary data suggests that Medford is likely to retain its No. 1 ranking among best-performing small cities for having a higher concentration of high-tech firms than the national average. 


Read more...

Tweeting Portland's State of the City address

News
Friday, January 30, 2015
Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.08.19 PMBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

For those who were working, here are a few highlights of Charlie Hales' State of the City address.


Read more...

4 highlights of the MLS labor deal

The Latest
Wednesday, March 04, 2015
timbersthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

On Wednesday night, a couple days ahead of the 2015 season kickoff, Major League Soccer and the Players Union reached an agreement.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS